With over 35 years of direct teaching experience, at all levels and with thousands of students, Helen Behan, MN, RN has helped to produce active, competent and caring nurses that continue to serve our communities and advance our profession. Her personal dedication to lifelong learning and service has inspired countless students to hold these same values.
Helen graduated from the Virginia Mason Diploma School of Nursing in 1951 and went on to complete her BSN at the University of Washington in 1953. She later earned her Master’s in Nursing at the University of Washington and completed a post-Master’s program in rehabilitation nursing. She began her career as a public health nurse then moved on to delivering direct patient care at Harborview, Boeing and with the Veterans Administration.
Helen worked at the VA until an auto accident prevented her from lifting patients. No longer able to provide bedside care, she knew she had to pursue other pathways. Associate Degree programs were being expanded in Washington State and Helen was invited in 1971 to join the faculty of the new program at Seattle Central Community College. Using the community college system to expand access to nursing education programs was a bold idea at the time and enabled a more diverse population to receive training. Helen worked hard to help develop curriculum and meet standards for national accreditation.
Seeing the need to help promising students, she began assisting students with tutoring on her own time to help them meet the rigorous requirements. She has maintained that commitment to student success by continuing to tutor to this day.
After finding a talent and passion for teaching, she took a teaching position at Everett Community College in 1973. When nursing moved toward the primary care model, Helen was asked to develop the Career Mobility LPN to RN program. The first class of LPN’s started in the summer of 1983, and every participant in the pilot group passed. Helen was asked to replicate the program in Alaska, which she was able to successfully do after spending a year there.
During her career, Helen also spent two years in Oregon serving as the Director of Nursing at Umpqua Community College where she worked to expand the healthcare curriculum and continuing education courses, in particular, assisting LPN’s and former military medics with advanced placement courses to complete their RN requirements.
Despite officially retiring in 1993, Helen continues to teach part time at Everett Community College. She also remains committed to fostering student success, helping English as second language students with their Nursing Assistant Certification. Helen also currently serves as a Pastoral Care volunteer at Providence Hospital, Colby Campus where she provides spiritual care and comfort to patients as only she can.
Helen has been a member of WSNA since she became an RN in 1951, over 60 remarkable years. During that time, she has served in numerous leaderships positions with WSNA, the King County Nurses Association and Snohomish County Nurses Association. She has attended nearly every WSNA Convention and 15 Nurse Legislative Days with her students, including the very first Nurse Legislative Day. She has also been a longtime leader in the American Association of University Women, including serving as the President from 2009 – 2011.
We honor Helen for expanding the nursing profession to such a diverse number of students from so many different circumstances and beginnings and in so many different settings. Helen’s contributions are invaluable.